What to expect if a Fire Safety Inspector Calls

This is a brief guide for Responsible Persons (RP) as designated under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and indicates how most UK fire authorities will conduct themselves. Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) conduct regular inspections on high risk non domestic premises to ensure they comply with the above order. The inspection program is based on a risk assessed principles and high risk premises are mostly those premises that have sleeping accommodation like hotels, hostels, residential homes and like premises. Other premises may come to the attention of the FRS if they are involved in fire or brought to the attention of the FRS by other people. Responsible Persons, e.g. owners, employers, managers and those in control of non domestic premises have duties under the above order and the following explains what you can expect when a fire safety enforcement officer visits your premises and what you may expect during a visit.

Fire Safety Inspectors have differing job description titles depending on which FRS they belong, so for the purpose of this guide they will be referred to as Enforcement Officers as this is what their role really is. (Check out the note at the bottom of this page.)

Who Enforces Fire Safety Law?

Fire safety law is enforced by Fire Safety Enforcement Officers from the local Fire and Rescue Service. They have the right and legal authority to enter any workplace at any reasonable hour, without giving notice, though notice may be given where the inspector thinks it is appropriate. The RP should establish if the EO has the authorisation to conduct an inspection before allowing him on the premises. The EO will then conduct an inspection to check out the workplace, the work activities, your management of fire safety, and audit your fire risk assessment to ensure you are complying with fire safety law. The EO may offer guidance or advice to help you. He/she may also talk to employees or their representatives, take photographs, serve notices, and take action if there is a risk to fire safety that needs to be dealt with immediately.

Enforcing

If the inspector finds a breach of fire safety law, the inspector will decide what action to take. The action will depend on the nature of the breach. Inspectors may take enforcement action in several ways to deal with a breach of the law.

Informal

Where the breach of the law is relatively minor, the inspector may tell the Responsible Person, what to do to comply with the law and explain why. The inspector will, if asked, write to confirm any advice.

Enforcement Notice

Where the breach of the law is more serious, he EO may issue an enforcement notice to tell the responsible person to do something to comply with the law. The EO will discuss the notice, and if possible resolve any points of difference, before serving it. The notice will say what needs to be done, by when, and why. The time period within which to take the remedial action will be at least 21 days to allow the duty holder time to appeal to a magistrates court if he/she so wishes.

Alteration Notice

The EO may issue an alteration notice if he/she is of the opinion that the premises constitute a serious risk to relevant persons

  • Whether due to the features of the premises, their use, any hazard present, or;
  • Any other circumstances or;
  • May constitute such a risk if a change is made to them or;
  • The use to which they are put.

The notice must state that the enforcing authority is of the opinion the matters identified constitute a risk to relevant persons or may constitute such a risk

  • If a change is made to the premises or
  • The use to which they are put.

The RP will be told in writing about the right of appeal to a magistrates’ court.

The responsible person must address the risk to relevant persons and reduce it to a satisfactory level. Before making any of the changes which may result in a significant increase in risk, the RP must notify the enforcing authority of the proposed changes. The RP will be told in writing about the right of appeal to a magistrates’ court.

Prohibition Notice

Where an activity involves, or will involve, a risk so serious that people are in imminent danger, emergency powers can be used to prohibit or restrict the use of the workplace until the risk has been reduced to an acceptable level. The prohibition or restriction notice will explain why the action is necessary. The RP will be told in writing about the right of appeal to a magistrates’ court.

Prosecution

In some cases the inspector may consider that it is also necessary to initiate a prosecution for failing to comply with fire safety law.

Appeals

A RP will be told in writing about the right of appeal when an enforcement, improvement, or prohibition notice is served. He/she will be told how to appeal, where, and within what period an appeal may be brought.

If the enforcing authority and the RP cannot agree on the measures which are necessary to remedy the failure. The enforcing authority and the RP may agree to have the question as to what measures are necessary to remedy the failure referred to the Secretary of State for his determination.

Information to Employees or Their Representative

During a inspection visit an inspector may check that those in charge, e.g. RP’s, have arrangements in place for consulting and informing employees or their representatives, for example safety representatives, about fire safety matters. Such arrangements are required by law.

The inspector may meet or speak to employees or their representatives during a visit, unless this is clearly inappropriate because of the purpose of the visit. When they meet, employees or their representatives should always be given the opportunity to speak privately to the inspector, if they so wish.

Complaints

In 1998 the ECC required all member states to introduce statutory guidance for enforcement authorities. The UK Government produced a document called the Enforcement Concordat which outlines the principles of how enforcement officers should conduct themselves and the Department for Trade and Industry (DTi) produced a guide to implementing those principles. The Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) then produced a statutory code of practice, the Regulator’s Compliance Code, for all Regulatory Authorities on how they should conduct themselves. This was subsequently replaced by the Better Regulation Delivery Office of the Department for Business Innovation & Skills with a simplified version, the Regulators’ Code, which remains in place to this day.

If you have a complaint that the procedures have not been followed, then you can request to contact the inspectors manager to discuss the matter. If you are not satisfied with the response, you will be given the opportunity of progressing the matter formally.

Each FRS will have its own complaints procedure but it should follow the lines indicated below.

  • Should you wish to do so, the complaint will be investigated by an appointed independent Officer within the Authority known as an Investigating Officer. A record of complaint will be made and a written acknowledgment of receipt of the complaint will be sent to you in a designated time.
  • The investigating officer will conduct a timely investigation of the complaint, will contact you to discuss the matter, and will reach a decision in respect of the complaint. You will be informed of the decision as soon as reasonable practicable.
  • If you are dissatisfied with the Investigating Officers decision you will be entitled to request a review the matter.
  • A further independent review will be carried out and the investigating officer may contact you to discuss the matter further. The investigating Officer will notify you of the decision as soon as reasonably practicable.
  • The complaints procedure does not effect any statutory right of appeal which you may have against action taken by the Service.

Complaints should be addressed to the local Fire Brigade Headquarters. Fire & Rescue Services Directory

Note. Fire brigades are required to give fire prevention advice to the general public. The designated departments were known as fire prevention departments and the personnel known as Fire Prevention Inspectors or Officers. As more demanding fire safety legislation was placed on the statute books, fire prevention departments became much larger to cope with the extra demand. Because they were enforcing the new acts and not doing pure fire prevention it was decided to refer to this role as Fire Safety. The officers engaged in fire safety became known as Fire Safety Officers or Inspectors. Today these people could be referred to as Fire Safety Enforcement Officers or Inspectors. As each fire brigade uses its own definitions, you get various titles but their role is the same.

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April 1, 2011[Last updated: June 17, 2021]

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